Calls for greater assistance from council as music venues, theatres, arts, dance and culture organisations suffer impact of Covid-19 restrictions and loss of funding
Greens have successfully pushed Brighton and Hove City Council to prepare a strategy to respond to the difficulties facing cultural, creative and music organisations in the city, as they struggle to absorb the impact of Covid-19.
Restrictions on public gatherings have already led to the cancellation of much-loved and high profile arts and cultural events in Brighton and Hove, such as Brighton Festival and Fringe, Artists Open Houses and the Great Escape Music Festival, while almost all venues and galleries have been forced to close their doors. As Covid-19 continues, uncertainty still remains over the future of events, venues and community arts projects, with many arts groups facing increased financial insecurity.
While welcoming the support offered to date, including emergency grants, Greens say it is essential that the council takes a longer-term approach to supporting the arts and culture sector, stressing that the effects of Covid-19 are likely to be felt for many years to come. There are fears that without further and ongoing support, many projects, organisations and events may yet fail.
Celebrating the benefits and popularity of cultural and arts events in the city, Greens say both the social – and economic – value of the sector cannot be underestimated. Research from the University of Sussex has indicated that creative industries in the city have generated up to £1.55 billion, with more than 16,000 people also in employment in creative businesses.
However, emphasising that many working in the creative and arts industry are often freelancers, sole-traders or independent businesses, often ineligible for furlough schemes or dependent on venues and co-working spaces for support, Greens say it is essential that the council does as much as possible to assist the many projects unlikely to be offered further support at this time.
Councillors of all parties voted yesterday (Thursday 18th June) to back the Green request for additional help. Urging the council to work more closely with bodies representing arts and culture groups, Greens say there is much the council could offer in-kind, from expertise to wider publicity and offers of help with grant applications and access to event space. Greens have also urged the council to play a greater role in the emerging government ‘Cultural Renewal Taskforce.’
Councillor Clare Rainey, who put forward the proposal, commented:
“It is vital that our hugely important creative and cultural sector are given the support they need to survive the crisis facing the industry as a result of Covid-19. From small galleries and venues to city-wide festivals and events, the city and its residents are already feeling the loss of so many cultural events, creative activities and organisations, which do so much both for our city, our communities, our individual mental health and our economy.
“With the impact of Covid-19 restrictions on public gatherings, use of community space and on income and unemployment, we have been keen to stress the absolute necessity of a long-term approach to support for our creative and arts industries. Many will struggle to stay financially viable for the next year and we also know that in uncertain economic times, creative budgets are often the first to be cut, despite the obvious benefits they bring.
“As a result we are pleased that all councillors have agreed to explore the best way to support the creative and cultural sector in the long-term. Long-term support could involve more collaboration between arts organisations and the council, the pooling of resources such as venues as they start to open, wider communication around grants and funding available and signposting to help with applying for these, prioritisation of grassroots and local cultural and creative events in using the city’s outdoor spaces, and collaboration with other sectors which can support recovery such as legal, human resources, financial and business planning advice. In so many ways culture, arts, music, theatre, dance and film help us connect to each other – and as they look to adapt, in these uncertain times, the joy they bring and impact they have are perhaps needed more than ever.”
Councillor Marianna Ebel, Green opposition spokesperson for the council’s Tourism, Equality, Communities and Culture committee added:
“The cultural sector has given so much to our city. Brighton & Hove is well known across borders for its vibrant cultural scene, drawing in visitors from near and far, and thus contributing to local industries far beyond the cultural sector. But the COVID-19 lockdown has thrown our cultural sector into an unprecedented crisis. Many jobs and livelihoods are at risk.
“If we don’t act now we could lose part of this vibrant sector for good. People currently working in the cultural sector will be forced to take jobs outside the sector and may not return. Local venues, whose small stages have provided a stepping stone for young talent, may need to close due to the financial difficulties, and once these venues are gone, they are gone.
“We are pleased to have received support for our proposals, as while we recognise the financial impact that Covid-19 is having on the council, we feel that more can be done to help the hard-hit cultural sector, for example by sign-posting self-employed workers and businesses in the sector to crowdfunding opportunities and by helping with applications for available grants, or providing outdoor spaces for events organised by the local arts & performance community.
“The cultural offer of our city is one of the very things that makes living here so special. We must do all we can to ensure it can adapt and survive, and following the support for our proposals, we hope for further outreach to the sector at this time.”